Tennessee librarians speak out against Chattanooga school board member's attempt to ban books – Tennessean

As a Chattanooga school board is set to debate who has the authority to approve, or remove, books in school libraries, Tennessee librarians are speaking out.
Representatives from the Tennessee Association of School Librarians, the Tennessee Library Association and Friends of the Tennessee Libraries are calling out recent censorship attempts by Hamilton County school board Rhonda Thurman.
Thurman, a long-time board member, expressed concerns in an op-ed last week over the use of curse words and references to sex and violence depicted in library books found in Hamilton County schools.
“The volume of what I have been sent is mind-numbing. I am still in disbelief this insanity is allowed in our school libraries and classrooms,” Thurman said in the opinion article, the Chattanooga Times Free Press first reported.
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Thurman referenced four books: “More Than We Can Tell” by Brigid Kemmerer, “On the Come Up” by Angie Thomas, “Far from the Tree” by Robin Benway and “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas and called for them to be removed.
But Tennessee librarians argue students’ “freedom to read and unfettered access to information” is protected by their First Amendment rights.
“Every book is not for every reader but every child should have access to books they may want to read. School librarians strive to know learners and assist them in finding books that fit their needs and interests. Ready access to a wide variety of reading materials increases the chances that learners will become readers and choose to read,” read a statement from the groups released Thursday. 
“A parent/guardian has the right to determine what’s best for their child and only their child.  Therefore, the reconsideration processes already in place should be strictly followed.
“…We oppose censorship within school libraries on the grounds that it is unconstitutional and contrary to the professional ethics of librarianship, and challenge and removal processes are already in place at the local school district level.”
The Hamilton County Board of Education is set to discuss the district’s policy for reconsidering literacy materials at a board meeting Thursday.
Thurman said the books were first brought to her attention by a parent member of the Hamilton County chapter of Moms for Liberty, a national conservative parent advocacy group, according to the Times Free Press
The debate comes as the state grapples with how to address topics like race, racism, sexuality and other social issues in schools in light of recent legislation passed this spring seeking to ban schools from teaching critical race theory and certain LGBTQ topics.
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“The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas made the list of the most challenged books of 2020, but the best-selling young adult novel was also made into a full-length movie in 2018.
The book has even been the focus of Hamilton County book clubs and was highlighted by the school district as a “Book of the Week” in January 2019.
Representatives from Chattanooga’s Moms for Social Justice plan to speak at Thursday’s school board meeting and “fight for diverse literature” in local schools.
The board meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. EST. 
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Meghan Mangrum covers education for the USA TODAY Network — Tennessee. Contact her at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @memangrum.